Rodolphe KREUTZER (1766-1831)
Violin Concerto No.17 in G major (c.1805) [16:57]
Violin Concerto No.18 in E major (c.1800-1810) [29:08]
Violin Concerto No.19 in D minor (c.1800-1810) [24:17]
Axel Strauss (violin)
San Francisco Conservatory Orchestra/Andrew Mogrelia
rec. January and February 2009, Caroline H. Hume Concert Hall, San Francisco, CA
NAXOS 8.570380 [71:52]

Record companies have been turning their attention to Kreutzerís last concertos for the violin. In fact there has been a small renaissance in discs devoted to the powerhouse Parisian violin school of late, and Kreutzer, Baillot and Rode have all received recordings. Long may that continue, for though some of these works are of pedagogic interest only, and will be far less amenable to more popular taste, the concertos of Kreutzer, for example, are part of the solo mainstream, even if they have seldom been played in concert and recorded.

The G major concerto, No.17, opens with a bright, panache-centred Maestoso. Its slow movement is an aria of marvellously warm textures and instinctive control of lyric material, including coloratura-cadential excellence. Kreutzer unleashes a vibrant Bolero to conclude the concerto. No. 19 in D minor has a deal of quasi-operatic patina in its orchestral introduction. There are plenty of contrasts, and overt virtuosity is a given considering the panache with which violin virtuosos of their time paraded their own strengths in this arena. The slow movement is rather conventional; itís more of an Intermezzo than the announced Andante sostenuto, and the finale drives the soloist through the hoops of technical display with a modicum of lyricism thrown in.

The Eighteenth concerto is also laid out well with plenty of decisive material; note the orchestral pizzicati in the first movement supporting a pirouetting and interrogative solo violin line, for example. The slow movement here is more convincing than in the Nineteenth Ė itís an aria-like cantabile, and the dynamic variance attests to the performersí sensitivity to its charms. The finale harkens back slightly to Mozartian models as filtered through the emergent new French school.

There is competition in the 18th and 19th concertos from Laurent Albrecht Breuninger and the SWR Radio Orchestra Kaiserslautern directed by Alun Francis on CPO 777 188-2. Of the two performances the more convincing are by Axel Strauss, who plays with directness and tonal vibrancy. Thereís not much in it, as regards the accompaniments, and the recordings are both good, but Strauss edges things soloistically.

Jonathan Woolf

Marvellously warm textures and instinctive control.